Smith hopes to reach potential at FSU

Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton isn’t afraid of recruiting project players (see Okaro White and Ian Miller). While most are more apt to opt for the sure thing, Hamilton’s patient enough and secure enough in his ability to cultivate players he spends the time molding one or two a year.

Hamilton’s next project is Jarquez Smith (Haddock, Ga./Jones County) after the ESPN 100 senior post committed to the Seminoles Sunday night. Smith stands at 6-foot-9 and 215 pounds, ideal measurables for a post player. But is he a post player? Who is Smith and why is he possibly the biggest riddle in the senior class?

This is one of those commitments that register more on the upside and potential scale than it does on the production side of the ledger. Don’t get me wrong; Smith’s had his big games but not nearly enough to match his immense talent level. His biggest marketable long-term asset is his capacity to play facing the basket. That aspect of his game also lends to his biggest weakness: avoiding responsibilities in the lane.

Smith could be an incredible shooter for his position. In an era where bigs mimic Kevin Durant, Smith clearly sees himself in that mold. There have been times on the trail where he’s torched it behind the line. There have also been times when that same stroke eluded him and drove him to have no impact in those games. He’s prone to disappearing because he isn’t a high volume rebounder.

When Smith peers into the mirror, he sees a small forward. When evaluating him in the gym, one sees a power forward with unique tools. That disconnect is part of the reason Smith is ranked No. 78 and not No. 28.

For all the missed opportunities there’s the occasional game where Smith has a large impact. This kid has a knack for rejecting shots. He’s got unteachable size, timing and explosion at the rim – when he wants. When he wants, Smith can go high above the rim to own rebounds. Frankly he could be intimidating on the defensive side. This is the guy you commonly attach the phrase “If it all comes together …”

The point I’m trying to make here is Smith should be better than his No. 78 ranking. He should have no problem outplaying that ranking should he find a balance between post and perimeter and fall in love with trying to replicate the same effort on the floor.

What does he mean for Florida State? Hamilton knows what he has on his hands. The staff is likely under no illusions of who this young man is. They should have high expectations for him only to be tempered by patience and a commitment to the process. It’s not going to happen overnight but Smith has the tools to play the game for pay one day.

Smith can’t afford to skip steps, he must be patient with his development but remain aggressive with his play. So far, he hasn’t showed himself to be comfortable being the leading man. The trajectory for him goes something like this: contributor as a freshman, starter as a sophomore and then things get fun. As a junior and senior, he’ll be a talked about player because of his natural athletic ability. Florida State is hoping that means lots of points and rebounds so he changes from “potential” to “producer” while in Tallahassee.